Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir

Stealing Buddha s Dinner A Memoir As a Vietnamese girl coming of age in Grand Rapids Michigan Nguyen is filled with a rapacious hunger for American identity and in the pre PC era Midwest where the Jennifers and Tiffanys reign supre

  • Title: Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir
  • Author: Bich Minh Nguyen Heather Luke
  • ISBN: 9781852385392
  • Page: 359
  • Format: Perfect Paperback
  • As a Vietnamese girl coming of age in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nguyen is filled with a rapacious hunger for American identity, and in the pre PC era Midwest where the Jennifers and Tiffanys reign supreme , the desire to belong transmutes into a passion for American food More exotic seeming than her Buddhist grandmother s traditional specialties, the campy, preservative fAs a Vietnamese girl coming of age in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nguyen is filled with a rapacious hunger for American identity, and in the pre PC era Midwest where the Jennifers and Tiffanys reign supreme , the desire to belong transmutes into a passion for American food More exotic seeming than her Buddhist grandmother s traditional specialties, the campy, preservative filled delicacies of mainstream America capture her imagination In Stealing Buddha s Dinner, the glossy branded allure of Pringles, Kit Kats, and Toll House Cookies becomes an ingenious metaphor for Nguyen s struggle to become a real American, a distinction that brings with it the dream of the perfect school lunch, burgers and Jell O for dinner, and a visit from the Kool Aid man Vivid and viscerally powerful, this remarkable memoir about growing up in the 1980s introduces an original new literary voice and an entirely new spin on the classic assimilation story.

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      359 Bich Minh Nguyen Heather Luke
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      Posted by:Bich Minh Nguyen Heather Luke
      Published :2018-08-25T08:31:02+00:00

    1 thought on “Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir”

    1. I went to middle school with Bich, so when I heard a clip on NPR within the last year, about an author of a memoir "growing up in a sea of blond" I perked up, thinking I, too, grew up feeling outside of the sea of blond I grew up in Imagine my surprise when the NPR story revealed the author. I do remember some painful substitute-teacher-butcherings of Bich's name; that Bich was extremely quiet; and she was the only girl in class who was my size-- extremely small-- which was automatically an invi [...]

    2. I read a criticism of this memoir by someone else who seemingly panned it on the basis that it was not written in a linear or chronological fashion, as memoirs are "supposed to be." I think this is a common misconception of memoir -- that it is "supposed to be" a time line of one's life, from birth to some magical resolution.Not true. I generally find books like that exceedingly dull. Setting out to write one's memoir, one might outline the book in a loosely chronological order, but I think ulti [...]

    3. Nguyen's writing immerses you in a richly detailed world of traditional Vietnamese dishes, American junk food, and tamales. With food as a starting point, she explores issues of belonging, marginalization, class, and girlhood. This is the kind of book you can just get lost in. You fall in love with the characters, and root for them. Like when they are triumphantly making a mess of the perfect, pretty white girl's bedroom! Yessss!I love her descriptions of the books she read growing up, with a fo [...]

    4. I have a habit of judging books by their covers, and I saw this one float past me at work and immediately wanted to read it without having any idea what it was about. Probably because I was hungry, and there are snacks on the cover.So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a memoir of someone growing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Nobody EVER writes books about Grand Rapids, Michigan. One time Anne Lamott mentioned Grand Rapids, very quickly, because of all of the dutch blonde people. Nguyen t [...]

    5. Unless you grew up in Grand Rapids in the 1980's, don't read this book. If you did grow up in GR in the 80's take your chances.On one hand, of 253 pages in this book, I'd bet about 100 are dedicated to descriptions of food and packaging that food came in.Besides tamales and tortillas, each holiday included a giant turkey a vat of mashed potatoes with gravy boatsStove Top Stuffing, Pillsbury crescent rolls, canned corn soaked in butter, canned string beans with cream of mushroom soup and baked wi [...]

    6. What a great walk down memory lane. The only thing missing was Russ' restaurant. Bich Minh Nguyen writes in agonizing detail about the dilemma of cross-cultural existence, with applications to be made in every direction. As one of the tall, blonde, problematic Dutch Reformed that made her life miserable, it was an especially painful read, soothed only by her incredibly similar memories of food from the '70s and '80s. Her description of being not quite American, but neither quite Vietnamese remin [...]

    7. Bich Minh Nguyen's "Stealing Buddha's Dinner" tells the story of her childhood, a time when she realized that her Vietnamese customs and cultures are far from normal compared to the lives of devout Christian blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls who make her feel abnormal and create for her a rapacious hunger for an American identity. The book is set in Grand Rapids, Michigan during the time of the Vietnam War when floods of immigrants migrated from Vietnam, seeking for a better life and a safe place t [...]

    8. This was such a disappointing book. The author is a Vietnames refugee who was raised almost entirely in the United States, but still never really fit into the ideal of becoming an American, so she tries to become an American by eating American food. Its obvious that many of these chapters appeared as individual essays in other publications, and little editing was done to make it into a cohesive story. Not only does the book jump around in different points of her life, but ominous foretelling fac [...]

    9. I found this book to be disappointing, but mostly because I had different ideas about what genre it was supposed to be. I was hoping for a refugee survival story. But it was mostly just a laundry list of memories from a childhood of the 80's. Much of it was familiar to me of course, but I need more than a list of favorite candy bars or a lengthy summary of the Little House books to keep me inspired. The memoir was slow to progress; the narrator frustratingly remained seven years old for what see [...]

    10. In elementary school I had a friend named Van, a Vietnamese immigrant, who, by 5th grade, was already an amazing cook of her traditional food. In 6th grade, her parents brought in food for Van's birthday. However, instead of bringing the traditional cupcakes, or even anything Vietnamese, they brought spaghetti. I always thought that was so odd, and a little funny, but after reading this memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen, the reasons behind this unintentional social oddity seems much clearer. The author [...]

    11. I really enjoyed this book. The author's need to fit in through gorging herself with American junk food was fascinating. I would definitely recommend this book especially to those who could remember the Vietnam war and the boat people who proabably settled in their neighborhoods and went to their schools.

    12. Set in Grand Rapids near where I currently live and where I went to college this memoir is luscious. Very cleverly written. It is also an incredible reflection on being marginalized as a 2nd generation immigrant. Overtones of adoption with the mystery surrounding a missing birth mother.The book has some really compelling chapters--I thought the chapter in which she breaks into her neighbors' house while they're gone was especially poignant and the chapters that included description of the VietNa [...]

    13. This is a solid memoir that I think I enjoyed a lot because it discussed the immigrant experience in Michigan--and maybe that resonated with me since I am a Michigan transplant, myself. However, this is mostly about the immigrant experience as related to consumer food in America (and just happens to take place on the West Coast of Michigan--Grand Rapids). I think a lot of the characters are one-dimensional with regards to how the author portrays them, but she gets her point across that way. For [...]

    14. So, I was really jazzed to read this book as it is a) a memoir, b) set in the 1980s, and c) about food. And there were parts of it I really liked. But, overall, I was a bit disappointed. Every time the book seemed to rev up, it let me down again. Part of the problem was the non-chronological nature of the book was hard to get any momentum for me as a reader when the author kept going back and forth in time (and not in an interesting way). And her time markers (TV shows, songs, etc. of the 80s) s [...]

    15. I read this one because we are considering it for our "Hillsdale County Reads" selection, but really didn't enjoy it at all. Narratively disjointed, it seemed to me to boil down to the author alternately whining and listing foods. Neither of which, frankly, is that interesting. When she started listing the foods that were mentioned in the "Little House on the Prairie" books, I nearly wanted to poke out my own eyeballs. I will admit that the last few chapters, where an adult Nguyen meets her moth [...]

    16. This is a memoir of a young Vietnamese girl who flees her homeland during the fall of Saigon, smuggled away along with her slightly older sister by her father, two uncles, and her grnadmother. They end up in a heavily Dutch part of Michigan, in Grand Rapids, where soon the family becomes more complicated with the introduction of a Mexican-American mother and a half-Anglo stepsister. Later on foster brothers, refugees from Vietnam, will add to the multicultural mix.There is a lot--and I do mean a [...]

    17. I picked this up on the New Book shelf at the library, attracted by the striking cover design. It's not a bad read -- a Vietnamese immigrant's account of growing up in drearily blonde Grand Rapids. The central conceit is Bich's fixation on American junk food as a symbol of belonging, but after a while the litany of brand names wore on me. I wanted more insight into herself and her unusual family (her father, a scrappy self-indulgent man, married a Mexican-American activist in what turned out to [...]

    18. There's a poignant, vivid, well-written approx. 15-page magazine article looking back at growing up in Michigan feeling like an outsider by religion, race, and all family customs after immigrating from Viet Nam in the mid-70's in here. Author is skilled at evoking sibling issues and complicated neighborhood friendships.Unfortunately, this touching article is buried in another 250 pages of preoccupation with food. Junk food the American kids ate that she didn't have, "ethnic" food her family prep [...]

    19. Nguyen shares fascinating stories of her childhood, trapped in between an refugee and an American child. There are a few emotional points in this memoir that stick out, but the gist of the book is a study on 80s culture, coming of age, meshing families, and (most importantly) food. It is not the quickest read, but remains relevant and interesting.

    20. I LOVED this book.Although I am a white girl with dark hair, I could relate to the author. It seemed that she was pretty close to my age, the coveted red Tupperware lunchbox was a big giveaway! There was that one girl in my 5th grade class: long blonde hair down to her butt-that sometimes was done up in fancy french braids!-bright blue eyes,she was super skinny, and she was rich because she took ballet classes and wore Jordache jeans every day! Oh! She also had a beautiful name, Shaunda. So when [...]

    21. I really enjoyed this book, but some of it might have to do with the fact that I know the author's brother. Aside from that, it was just a really interesting memoir because it was different from my life as a kid. I'd always had friends from different cultures, many of them refugees, and was fascinated with their culture. I do remember my friend who was Indian (from India) hated her culture because she wanted to be American. That didn't last forever and by the time she was about 15 or 16 she star [...]

    22. Bich Minh Nguyen's humorous coming-of-age tale mines themes of loss and identity by cleverly retelling anecdotes in chapters dealing with__or gleefully obsessing over?__particular American foods. Her prose is engaging, and half the fun is reliving with her the pop culture of the 1980s. Rosa's role as "mom"/tyrant/activist is rich and resonating, but critics were split over the effect of Nguyen's birth mother, whose fleeting appearance is powerful but unexplained. The novel's chronology also caus [...]

    23. 3 1/2 stars. I liked this book, although it's clearly not for everyone. Nyguyen tells the story of growing up as a refugee in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she always feels that she doesn't fit in--with her blond, Dutch, Christian schoolmates or her own extended Vietnamese-American and Mexican-American family. She finds comfort in junk food, books, tv, and her beloved grandmother. Her story is about her distance from the people around her, her longing for acceptance and meaning, and, ultimately, [...]

    24. This is a highly readable memoir. Using the lens of Vietnamese vs. American food, Nguyen, who arrived in the U.S. as a baby, vividly describes her experience growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the 1980s. As a second generation American growing up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s I identified with many of the scenes and feelings she depicts. The weakest part of the book concerns the history of her fractured yet cohesive family unit. I thought the final reveal of her mother's life was no [...]

    25. Having grown up in a predominately white small town small, in fact, that I have only known 2 black families until recently and very few of other varieties and religionsI rarely had the experience of really understanding the issues that confront others from this point of view. So, I am always hungry to understand and get more information. I feel like the struggles she faced were very personal to me from a reader’s point of view. She described things in a way in which I really connected. I appre [...]

    26. I had a tremendous amount of fun with this book when I started it a few months ago. Bich Minh is almost exactly the same age I am and I was struck over and over with the unexpectedness of the connections I felt with her--unexpected because my lily-white, American-born, farm-raised life is almost the opposite of a Vietnamese refugee living in the suburban mid-west. Turns out, though, that being bookish, glasses-wearing girls growing up in 70s and 80s America means we had quite a lot in common.In [...]

    27. I couldn't put it down. Perhaps because the author and I are similar in age, and therefore my memories of growing up are colored by many of the same references, perhaps because the book takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I attended college, I found a lot to identify with here. What I found most interesting, however, is that although my family situation couldn't have been more different, Nguyen's description of the way she moved between two cultures mirrored my own emotional experience [...]

    28. There are a lot of fascinating things about this memoir. The author's grandmother, Noi, almost seems like a goddess herself. She never talks, but her presence and impact on the author speak for themselves. The author's story of how she left Vietnam is amazing, and her return to the country at the end of the book is a really interesting (and kind of sad) parallel to the rest of the book, in that as she was growing up, she did not feel she fit in and did not truly identify as what she saw as a typ [...]

    29. I loved this book about a girl who was a vietnamese immigrant trying to fit in with all the other blonde girls at her school and in her neighborhood. I did not find her views and discriptions on the 80's dull, but rather fascinating. I, a few months ago, saw an obituary in the newspaper about Nguyen's grandmother who she practically worshiped throughout hte book. It was sad to see someone who played an important role in one of my favorite books had died. I tried to think about how Nguyen felt, b [...]

    30. Nguyen writes about growing up in Michigan in the 80s after she and most of her family escaped from Vietnam. Her observations about the cultures, delivered through intimate, bite-sized images of the foods we eat, place the reader in that no man's land between the cultures. This is what most critics notice and applaud.But what I would praise Nguyen for isn't so much that as her dead on ability to evoke the isolation and longing of adolescence. Because she doesn't address it openly, the feeling sn [...]

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